Thursday, December 18, 2014


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Rochester: Viewfinder: Restoring Forgotten Glass
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Waterloo's John Lord is a self taught preservationist. His early passions were antique clocks and steam engines. About 20 years ago, old glass caught his eye.

"It's the past that interests me. I like the restoration, the bring-it-back. I like raising the dead. That's what it amounts to for me,” said Lord.

John says only the concept of the past is valued. Its objects and materials aren't. He says we should all be preservationists.

"The idea of a throw away culture and irrelevance bothers me. The whole point of pop culture today is how fast can you turn it over? Get another one. What's newest? What's latest?"

John's current project is a once in a lifetime chance to preserve the past.

His reputation with glass restoration had reached a group hoping to restore a forgotten work of art: A glass mosaic crafted by Lewis Comfort Tiffany.

The mosaic, depicting the last supper, is mounted in the chapel at the Spa Apartments in Clifton Springs. The chapel was spared the wrecking ball 40 years ago by local citizens who valued the remaining life the old building offered. Remarkably, the mosaic, one of only three in the world, remained unnoticed for four more decades.

"Let’s show Tiffany the way he was meant to be seen. Let’s reverse some of the damage."

John estimated there are about 400 individual tiles of Tiffany glass per square foot.

"Individual pieces of glass for each eye, each mouth, each lip, each fingertip. Some of them are over a dozen pieces of glass just in the iris and the eyes."

The financial donors of this project wish to remain anonymous. The initial estimate for the restoration was about $25,000.

"I started at the top, did the worst damage first, so I'm working towards the sides them coming down."

Word of the restoration has spread and the plans for the project have grown. A lighting engineer will modernize the way the mosaic is illuminated, the surrounding walls will be restored, and plans are moving forward to install a period organ in the chapel. Plans to unveil the Tiffany have been pushed back from Easter to Christmas.

A pragmatic John Lord respects the rare Tiffany but simply wants it restored.

"I'm only going to get one shot at this. I can either sit and wish I did it, or do it. I'm not afraid of mistakes. I'm accountable."
That about sums up John's advice to anyone afraid of slipping into irrelevance, like old disposable things.

"All you can do is fail, or you can sit and be a failure."

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